broccoli and cheese penne

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My daughter dances jazz, tap and hip-hop competitively.  Sometimes I can’t believe I’m a dance mom. I wonder to myself – how did I get here? Oh yes! Because she LOVES it. She started dancing as a tiny 3 year old with her BFF and they just never stopped!  That’s right! Funny thing is, I am not really a girly girl.  I never really learned to do my hair and I have been doing my eyeliner the same way since I was 13 or something.  My hair is usually pulled up in a ponytail or just down, after air drying it.  No frills.  My daughter?  Girly girl! Pink, lace, shoes, makeup, accessories – she loves it all!  I like that she forges her own path and honestly, we’ve let her pick out her own clothes since she was 3 because she would fight my husband in the mornings and he couldn’t handle it anymore. I hang a few pieces that are off limits but otherwise, she can wear whatever she wants to school.  But that also means that there have been days that I’ve picked her up at school and she’s wearing pajamas or thick tights with no pants (what the heck??)!  Oh well, she definitely knows what she likes…

So why all this as an intro to broccoli and cheese penne? My daughter works really hard. She dances 3 days a week and plays softball twice a week. She’s also 6.  She can do chin-ups, flips and monkey bars. She’s just a really strong and athletic girl and I love that about her. But I have noticed that her diet has been changing.  She used to be a carb monster – rice, pasta, more rice, tortillas and more rice. Of course she’d have protein and veggies but she really loved her carbs.  Lately though, she has been a veggie eating monster!  She can’t get enough of cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and yes, even broccoli. She’s been eating a lot more protein too. I think her body needs the healthy fuel and she feels better eating it.  And I’m more than happy to have another veggie lover in the house.  While the boys groan over a dish full of veggies, my daughter cried happily when she saw that there was broccoli! She literally ate all the broccoli from her brother’s and dad’s plate as well. I’ve found that broccoli seems to be a pretty well liked veggie for kids. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as my daughter did!

Our family just got back from Chicago but we are heading to Southern California for dance nationals.  Seriously, the things we do for our kids!!!  Her jazz team won 1st place in Regionals last month so we’re hoping they will do well at Nationals.

Here’s my pretty jazz girl and following that ,the recipe!

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Broccoli And Cheese Penne Recipe

recipe from Food Republic

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Level of Difficulty: Easy
  • Serving Size: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil a deep 8-cup ovenproof dish.
  2. Cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling water until tender. Add broccoli for last 5 minutes of pasta cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta and broccoli under cold water; drain, cool.
  3. Combine pasta, broccoli, eggs, cream, milk and cheddar in large bowl; season.
  4. Spoon mixture into dish; sprinkle with combined breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, rind and parsley.
  5. Bake, uncovered, about 40 minutes or until browned lightly and set.
  6. Stand 10 minutes before serving.
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ziti (or rotini) and meatballs

 

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You’re all starting to learn that I cook what I want to cook, not even necessarily what I want to eat.  Just what I want to cook. But there are times  I take special requests.  And usually, I try to fulfill those requests during that week or the following week.  Last week, hubs told me one night that he was craving meatballs.  Not meat sauce for his pasta but actual meatballs.  It just so happened that I had some ground beef so I graciously said that I would cook him meatballs!  There was no need for him to also know that I was looking for a way to use up the ground beef anyway! 🙂  I looked through my recipes and came across this one. These were devoured with much gusto and hubs proclaimed that it’s even better than most restaurants! That is one of his ultimate compliments to me with his other favorite one being, “YOU should open a restaurant and sell just ___________.”  I’m really glad when I can fulfill a craving and get it done on a weeknight! Making meatballs used to have me pausing with apprehension but now, it’s become so easy for me to make!  Mix, separate, kinda roll, kinda shape then baking sheet!

I’ll write an update soon about my trip to Chicago – my little brother got married!

Ziti and Meatballs

recipe from Real Simple

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/3cup bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4cup grated pecorino (about 1 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 1 pound ziti (or other pasta. obviously I used rotini)

Directions

  1. In a food processor fitted with the coarse grating disk, grate the carrots, onion, and zucchini. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the grated vegetables, 2 cloves of the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed and whole tomatoes (with their juices) and oregano to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon, until the sauce has thickened, 35 to 40 minutes.

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  1. Meanwhile, heat broiler. In a large bowl, gently combine the beef, bread crumbs, eggs, pecorino, the remaining garlic, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Form into 32 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on a foil-lined large broilerproof baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Top with the meatballs, sauce, and additional pecorino and serve with the salad.
  3. The meatballs and sauce can be frozen together in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. To reheat, run the containers under warm water until the mixture slides out. Transfer to a saucepan and cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Cook the pasta and serve with the meatballs and sauce.

 

pasta with cauliflower

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If you ask my kids what their favorite dishes are, they’d both say that this cauliflower pasta is in their top 5.  This particular dish is why they tend to tell people that they LOVE cauliflower and it’s been the gateway to them trying cauliflower soup and other cauliflower dishes (I have yet to try cauliflower rice, though!).  Even the husband, who is sometimes worse about eating his veggies than the kids, loves this dish.  The first time I made it, he had NO idea it was even cauliflower; he was totally confused! He said it tasted nutty and that’s the trick – once you get the cauliflower in the skillet, break it up into smaller pieces so that it really gets to caramelize and turns out having this really nutty, delicious flavor.  I prefer to use Romano cheese but I’ve totally done half Romano/Parmesan if I didn’t have enough Romano because it’s flexible. The cheese just gives it a little more salty goodness.  I sometimes add bacon or pancetta if I have it on hand, although I typically like serving this as a meatless meal.  I’ve made this dish SO many times and that is saying a lot because in my dinner journal (inspired by Dinner: A Love Story) I’ve found that of the few repeat dishes I make at home, I tend to cook them every 6 weeks.  That just ends up happening consistently over the years, even though it’s not planned!  Here are a few more tricks I have when making this dish, perfected over the last 9 years!

*While the cauliflower is cooking, I heat up a separate skillet with the oil in it. When one minute is left to go on the cauliflower, I add the garlic and red pepper to the hot skillet. That way the garlic doesn’t burn (ick) and it’s ready to go when the cauliflower is done!

*I dump the cheese into the dish once it’s all done and mix.  Usually I know how much cheese my family likes (not too much, sadly).  If you have a cheese-loving family, you can bring some more cheese to the table for people to add as they like but I prefer just plating the food with everything else ready to go, if needed!

 That’s basically it! It’s a straightforward recipe.  It takes minimal time and whenever I have a cauliflower sitting in the refrigerator, this is what I usually make.  The family fights over leftovers and because of this dish, I always have Romano cheese in my fridge.  It’s a staple of my family and my hope is that it will be a part of yours, too!

Pasta with Cauliflower

adapted slightly from the Boston Globe

Serves 4

1       large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1/2     cup olive oil
5       large cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
1       pound dry rigatoni pasta ( I’ve made it with all kinds of pasta and the picture above is         penne!)
1       handful of parsley, leaves only, chopped
1       cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

2. While the water is heating, place the florets in a large bowl of
cold water to soak. When the water comes to a boil, transfer the
florets to the boiling water and for cook 6 to 7 minutes or until they
are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

3. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower from the
water. Do not discard the cooking water. Keep it at a low boil until
you are ready to cook the pasta.

4. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the
oil. Add the garlic and the red pepper and cook, stirring, about 1
minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the florets with salt. Stir
gently. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook, still stirring,
for about 10 to 15 minutes longer or until the cauliflower is tender.

5. Meanwhile, bring the cooking water back to a rapid boil. Add salt
and the rigatoni. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or
until the pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite.

6. Drain the pasta into a colander and add it to the pan with the
cauliflower. Stir well to combine. Add the parsley, taste for
seasoning, and add more salt and red pepper, if you like. Continue
cooking 2 to 3 minutes longer. Serve with Romano cheese.

chicken parmesan ravioli

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Happy National Ravioli Day!  I used to read a newsletter that listed national food days and I became a huge fan!  I like reading the daily food/drink to be celebrated and if it’s within my power, I celebrate it!  Our day started early, at 5am, so that my daughter could go to her dance competition.  When I woke her up, she popped her eyes open and said “Yay!”  I often look at her and wonder whose child she is!!!  No matter how excited I am for certain things, I would never say yay at 5am! She danced, we stopped to get jjajangmyun on the way home and then mama took a long nap!  When I woke up, I wanted to cook something simple and then I remembered it was national ravioli day!  Frozen ravioli? Easy! Since I was refreshed from my nap, I decided to bread some chicken and make it a chicken parm style ravioli dinner and it was ooey gooey and delicious.  The picture up there basically is why I don’t take a lot of food pictures – I like to make delicious food but it doesn’t always look so pretty on the plate!  But if it is satisfying, I don’t care so much about how it looks.  But I know sometimes you want to see the end result so there it is!  Don’t just take my word for it, try this out!

For those of you who are looking for even more of a hack, try pre-breaded frozen chicken as a topper!  When I first started to cook, just the practice of making a meal every day was enough pressure.  I often made chicken parm that way and worked my way up to making the chicken from scratch.  Wherever you are in your cooking journey, you can make it work!

Chicken Parmesan Ravioli
recipe from Cassie Craves

1 pound chicken tenders, cut into chunks
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 package frozen cheese ravioli
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
Shredded parmesan cheese
1. Place the breadcrumbs, flour, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in a plastic freezer bag. Dip the chicken chunks in egg, then add to the bag and shake to evenly coat.
2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Fry the chicken in batches until crisp and cooked through. Remove to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven while you prepare the rest of the meal.
3. Meanwhile, heat the spaghetti sauce over gentle heat in a medium pot. Cook the ravioli according to package directions; drain.
4. Return the ravioli to the hot pot. Add the heated sauce, the reserved chicken pieces, the chopped mozzarella, and most of the basil. Stir gently to combine.
5. Sprinkle each serving with additional basil and parmesan cheese.